I’ll Find Something

Through the boarded up window I can hear the woman clearly.

‘Why don’t you want to talk about it?’ she shouts. ‘You never want to discuss anything.’ I look to see if the noise is disturbing our three week old son but he is sleeping peacefully.

‘You see, you don’t even know when you’re doing it,’ the woman continues. They have these arguments two or three times a week and they always go the same way. We hear the woman complaining and the man getting more and more angry. Then he starts shouting and she begins to cry. Finally, he walks out, slamming the front door and the sobbing eventually subsides. Sometimes when it’s really bad he smashes something before he walks out. I suppose that’s better than hitting her.

‘What’s the point?’ the man is saying, his voice audible now. ‘You’re incapable of rational conversation. You don’t want to talk, you just want to complain.’ I picture them in there. The guy is short and thick set, the woman unbelievably fat. I don’t know what he does for a living, but she works on the checkout in the local supermarket. She comes round once a month to collect our rent and empty the meter. Otherwise they leave us pretty much alone.

I cross the room and open the door into the kitchen where Cherry is getting dinner ready.

‘They’re at it again,’ I say.

‘How long has it been going on?’

‘About half an hour.’

‘I can’t stand it here much longer,’ Cherry says. ‘They’re driving me crazy.’

‘I know,’ I say. ‘We’ll find somewhere else.’ I say this to comfort her. I’ve been looking for weeks. Housing isn’t that easy to find.

We’ve been living in this place for four months now. Whoever built it didn’t know what they were doing. It began life as a shop tacked onto the house next door, but has been added to. The walls are moving apart and when it rains water streams down the wall between the kitchen and the living room. Even when it’s not raining it’s damp. Our clothes and books have grown mould and the electric meter eats money. The place smells dank and greasy. The oddest thing of all is the window which looks into our living room. When the extension was built nobody bricked it up. The window, with the glass still in, is covered with a board. This is the window though which we hear them arguing. They’re still at it.

‘What do you mean?’ the woman asks. The man doesn’t say anything. ‘Answer me!’ she shouts.

‘Oh for Christ’s sake,’ he says.

‘I don’t understand. Tell me, how am I supposed to know?’

‘Just give over, do you hear?’ the man shouts.

In spite of everything I am happy. It is great having the kid. During the summer I had a job as a painter at the new hospital, but that finished. Since then I’ve been signing on again. Recently I’ve managed to find work two days a week in the market. They pay me cash in hand and I haven’t told the dole office. It’s not much but I also get free fruit and vegetables. We do alright, if we’re careful.

There is a crash from next door as he throws something. Cherry comes through into the living room and I put my arms around her and kiss her.

‘You’re driving me nuts,’ the man shouts. She is sobbing. ‘Can’t I get any peace?’

‘Do you think they were ever in love?’ Cherry asks. I know what she’s thinking. I often wonder why he lives with her and why she lives with him. I suppose they prefer this to loneliness. We’ve spent hours listening to them. I wish I could do something to help. I’d like to film them and then play back the tape, stopping it every now and then to point things out like ‘there, you deliberately misunderstood,’ or ‘that’s unfair, she never said that.’ But I know it wouldn’t do any good.

‘No,’ I say, ‘not like us anyway.’ We stand there with our arms around each other watching the baby sleeping. We hear the front door slam. The woman is still sobbing.

Later, in bed, I lie awake for a long time. I can hear the short wave radio in the all night taxi office next door, the words distorted beyond recognition, a meaningless exchange of electronic sounds. Occasionally a car drives up onto the forecourt or leaves. Headlights sweep the room then fade. Cherry and the baby are sleeping. On the other side it is quiet. Tomorrow I’ll go out and look for another place. I’ll find something.